UK

Kings Cross Fire Memories Still 'Fresh' 30 Years On

Thirty-one people lost their lives in the inferno.

18/11/2017 14:48 GMT

Memories of the King’s Cross fire are still “fresh” for families, as commemorations mark 30 years since the deadly blaze.

Thirty-one people died when an escalator fire, thought to have been caused by a dropped match, ripped through part of the London Underground station on 18 November 1987.

On Saturday, victims’ families, survivors and members of the emergency services who attended the incident gathered for a minute’s silence in memory of those who died. 

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The fire-damaged escalators at King's Cross following the fire which killed 31 people

Leading the short service, London Fire Brigade chaplain the Rev Ian Black said of those affected: “We will remember them in silence in our hearts.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan laid wreaths alongside Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown, under a plaque in the ticket hall near where the fire took hold, the Press Association reported.

Deirdre Holloway, whose brother Christopher Roome was killed, said: “It seems amazing that it was 30 years ago. It seems quite fresh. My brother would be 80 now.”

Roome, a stockbroker, had been travelling back from work in the city to his flat in Pimlico, central London, when he was evacuated from a train at the station.

Holloway, from Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, said her brother managed to escape but suffered 75% burns and died a little more than a week after the blaze.

Recalling speaking to him in hospital she said: “He said how glad he was to get out, he said ‘I don’t know how I survived, it was hell down there’.” 

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Firefighters at the scene of the fire 30 years ago

Rail passenger Peter Gidley said he was on the mainline station concourse and saw “thick black smoke belching from all the Underground exits”.

He added: “If hell exists, it was on display that night.”

London Underground managing director Mark Wild paid tribute to the “very brave” station staff, train drivers and emergency services.

He said: “The really key thing out of King’s Cross is it instilled a safety culture in London Underground of continuously improving. Even though that risk has been eliminated, we’re always alert to future ones.”

Ahead of the anniversary, London Fire Brigade (LFB) said the Grenfell Tower fire will boost safety standards as much as the King’s Cross Tube station blaze. 

According to the Press Association, LFB’s director of operations Tom George said: “The King’s Cross fire was a game changer for London Fire Brigade and the UK fire service just as the Grenfell tragedy will be 30 years later.

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Melted roof tiles litter a subway tunnel after the blaze

“Significant changes across the sector were made following the fire and I’m sure the same will happen once the investigations have taken place post-Grenfell.

“Following the King’s Cross inquiry, firefighters’ uniforms, Underground fire safety procedures and joint working between blue light partners were all improved, and have helped save public and firefighters’ lives in the aftermath of the tragedy.”

Smoking was immediately banned on all parts of the Tube after the King’s Cross disaster and wooden escalators were replaced.

George was in training at the time of the blaze and was selected to attend the funeral of fireman Colin Townsley, who was among the dead.

 

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A memorial service for the 30th anniversary of the fire was held on Saturday

Townsley was in charge of the first fire engine to arrive at the scene shortly after 7.30pm and was in the Tube station when the fireball erupted, engulfing the ticket office with smoke.

He was posthumously awarded a certificate of commendation for his bravery.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said: “The King’s Cross fire stands alongside the appalling disaster at Grenfell Tower as a reminder to everyone that safety and regulation must remain our watchwords regardless of what the bottom line says on a set of accounts.”

Police believe 70 people were killed in the Grenfell Tower blaze in west London five months ago.